During the pandemic, many employers began offering their employees the option to work from home. This arrangement has worked out well and workers are reporting that they’re happier and more productive than before.
However, working from home may also include a loss of healthy habits, like working out at the gym on the way to or from work or lunchtime walks around town. So, how can you take full advantage of the benefits of working from home, and stay active, without succumbing to the pitfalls? Read on for some helpful tips and suggestions for making work from home, work for you.
1) Schedule Exercise
Without the office work environment to keep you focused, distractions at home can take over. Here is where maintaining structure and boundaries can help. If your daily routine before working from home included a stop-off at the gym on the way to or from work, keep your time organized and accounted for by filling those time slots with home exercise. This can include a brisk early morning walk around your neighborhood, a session of weight training, or stretches. If you don’t have (or want) a dedicated home gym, simply keep some hand weights tucked away under a couch and roll out a mat at the appointed exercise time.
Keeping to a cardiovascular exercise routine, especially walking, is proven to improve overall vascular health and reduce symptoms of peripheral artery disease (P.A.D.). Exercise is the first line of defense for reducing P.A.D. symptoms, such as the onset of pain brought on by walking and increases the ability to walk longer distances. Not to mention that cardiovascular exercise is great for helping prevent and control high blood pressure and preventing stroke, keeps blood sugar levels in the healthy range, and lowers cholesterol!
2) Set a Timer to Wake Up
When your commute is measured in feet not miles it’s easy to become lax about what time you get up each morning. Avoid the downward spiral of late starts by setting a timer so you consistently wake up at the same time. If you had a lengthy commute previously, fill that time with productive activities you enjoy. Luxuriate with some gentle morning yoga, or, if you’re feeling more energetic, a flurry of workspace cleaning to get you prepped for the day ahead. Housecleaning is a great way to organize your mind and it burns lots of calories, so it counts toward your exercise goals.
3) Elevate Your Legs
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends elevation of the legs as an effective self-care approach for reducing varicose vein symptoms. That’s good news for the work-from-home crowd because in your home office you’re free to arrange your work setup to best suit your needs. That includes the ability to recline with your legs elevated while typing on a keyboard, reading, or talking on the phone. But don’t wait until swelling and discomfort set in. Start early in the day and intersperse short sessions of leg elevation frequently. Your doctor can advise you on the best routine for your individual needs.
4) Limit Snacks
In many workplaces vending machines stocked with candy, chips, and breakrooms offering donuts and other tempting confections donated by well-meaning coworkers, are an ever-present source of temptation. Working from home eliminates those distractions but replaces them with your own pantry selections, which can be equally tempting (though hopefully healthier).
To avoid being distracted by tempting snacks set break times and prepare healthy snacks ahead of time. Recreate the breaktime ritual by creating a designated snack cupboard stocked with a healthy selection of snacks that you can quickly reach for without having to expend preparation time. These healthy habits make it easier to reduce your consumption of sugar, fried foods, and salt, leading to better blood sugar control and lower cholesterol levels and will reduce your risk for developing conditions that impair circulation, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
5) Sneak in Exercise
Sitting at a desk, whether at an office or at home, is a sedentary activity that promotes sluggish blood flow and may contribute to the development or worsening of varicose veins. Here are a couple of ways to modify your workspace so you can sneak in exercise while staying productive.
Replace your conventional computer or desk chair with an exercise ball chair. This alternative-style seating keeps your core muscles slightly engaged at all times, promotes healthy posture, and strengthens your back muscles. To know if an exercise ball is the right size and inflated properly for you check your hips and knees while you are sitting slightly forward of center on the ball; both should be at 90° angles.
Having a standing desk option is another useful way to work in small amounts of exercise throughout the day, such as hamstring and quadriceps stretches, toe raises to activate the calf muscle pump, knee raises to get the blood flowing, and many others.
6) Concentrate on Leg Exercises
Keeping the blood flowing in your legs is a top priority if you have varicose veins or are prone to developing them. Leg exercises can be as simple as ankle rotations (these can be made more fun and challenging by drawing the alphabet in the air with your toe), calf stretches, or foot peddling, in which you alternately point and flex one foot then the other. All of these can easily be done at a desk or workspace. Your doctor can advise you on the best frequency and duration of leg exercises for your needs.
A few more leg exercises that can be done at a desk, include:
Seated Double Leg Raise
- Start by sitting up and holding onto the sides of your chair for support. Engage your core muscles by pressing your arms down to raise your torso slightly, keeping your bottom in contact with the chair.
- Cross your legs at the ankles.
- Straighten your legs by slowly extending your knees then return to the starting position.
- Recross your ankles with the opposite leg in front and repeat.
- Flex and straighten several times according to your strength and comfort level.
- As you build strength you can advance this exercise by adding reps or by holding your legs outstretched for a few seconds at a time.
- While sitting at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor squeeze your buttock muscles and hold for a few seconds then release and repeat for 10-12 reps.
- For additional toning of the inner thigh muscles, place a foam yoga block or similar lightweight object between your knees at the narrowest or middle width. Hold the yoga block between your knees and press inward while squeezing the buttocks. Hold for a few seconds and repeat as for step 1.
- For additional toning of the outer thigh muscles wrap a wide (2”-3”) strap around your thighs just above the knees with your knees hip-width apart. Tie the strap in place and press your legs outward while squeezing the buttock muscles. Hold for a few seconds and repeat as for step 1.
Alternating Knee Lifts
- Start by sitting up toward the edge of your seat.
- Bend one knee and slowly, with control raise it up toward your chest.
- Lower that leg.
- Raise and lower the other leg.
- Repeat for 30 seconds.
7) Wear Compression Stockings
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends wearing compression stockings to help prevent swelling from setting in and causing pain, itching, pressure, and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with varicose veins. They also fend off serious complications like blood clots and venous ulcers. Compression stockings are available over-the-counter, or, if you need extra support your doctor may prescribe custom stockings. For best results, start wearing your compression stockings before swelling sets in.
8) Get Your Varicose Veins Treated
Effective, minimally invasive varicose vein treatment is available and, in most instances, is covered by insurance. Empire Vein Specialists is the country’s largest provider of VenaSeal™, a revolutionary procedure that safely and painlessly eliminates varicose veins. With VenaSeal™ healing is immediate and you’ll be able to resume your normal activities the same day.
To find out if VenaSeal™ is right for you, we invite you to schedule a free vein screening consultation at Empire Vein Specialists. All of our physicians are board-certified vascular surgeons who specialize in helping people like you. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 1-800-VARICOSE (1-800-827-4267).
- Clinical impact of exercise in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Vascular, 2017. 25(4)
- Varicose Veins: Diagnosis and Treatment. American Family Physician, 2021. 99(11): p. 682-688